Russia on the verge of blocking LinkedIn

It could happen any day now. After a prolonged detente with social media platform LinkedIn, the Russian government is ready to pull the plug on access to the business network altogether. A court in Moscow ruled last week that access can be blocked because the site failed to comply with regulations regarding data and storage regulations. In short, LinkedIn was vulnerable, hadn’t acted on instructions and Russia was done asking nicely.

From the Russian government’s perspective, the rule is simple and clear cut. Store personal information related to Russian citizens on servers inside Russia.

The social network responded to the ruling by overstating the obvious: “(this ruling) has the potential to deny access to LinkedIn for the millions of members we have in Russian and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their business.”

Yes, that’s true, but it’s not like they were not aware of this. That’s why they were in court, to begin with. Repeating what you already know in an annoyed tone doesn’t change the message. They’re still stuck with two choices: comply or negotiate a compromise.

While the company’s statement doesn’t seem to indicate it, company leadership may already be headed back to the negotiating table. This could have something to do with the fact that Microsoft is in the process of buying LinkedIn, and the deal might go south if this situation gets any more complicated. With that in mind, LinkedIn leadership said they wanted to meet with the Russian communication regulatory body to “discuss” the issue.

Not that another conversation would resolve things. Russia and LinkedIn have been having a “conversation” about this issue for more than a year now. Russia passed the law back in September 2015, and LinkedIn was found in violation by a lower court prior to this ruling. Undaunted by the loss in the lower court, LinkedIn kept pressing. Now time is running out.

If you ask consumers who’s to blame for this tilt, the jury is mixed. Some say the government has every right to enact laws to protect its citizens from potential cyber crime. Others say it’s unfair to force a company to immediately comply with rules that were changed after they entered the game.

Opinions are all over the place on that spectrum, but many are informed directly by the recent LinkedIn hack, which has been blamed on a recently-arrested Russian man. This suspect fell into the FBI cross hairs after evidence connected him to the theft of 117 million LinkedIn passwords and other login credentials.

Based primarily on that case, many believe Russia is on the right side of this issue, and that LinkedIn needs to beef up its security across the board. At this point, LinkedIn has not announced plans to comply with the ruling. How that impacts their consumer PR, both in the States and in Russia, remains to be seen.

Elie Hirschfeld is a real estate developer in NYC.

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